Fiesta Taco Salad

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This fiesta taco salad recipe is quick, easy, and packed with flavor. Make a taco salad bar and load up your crushed Doritos and taco-seasoned ground beef with your favorite taco toppings, like cheese, sour cream, Catalina dressing, and fresh veggies.

Forkful of fiesta taco salad.

This fiesta taco salad recipe I’m sharing today is one that reminds me so much of my childhood. When my brother and I were old enough, my mom taught us some easy meals so that we could cook hot meals for ourselves. Things like spaghetti and tacos and even meatloaf. I’m sure this salad will be familiar to many of you. This is one my brother and I now make for our own families.

What we loved most about it is my mom let us make it however we liked it. We would put all the ingredients into bowls and then we could just go down the line and add on whatever we wanted. It felt like a buffet to us and I just know your kids will get a kick out of it too. This is also a great recipe to double to feed a larger crowd. Have a taco salad bar!

We start with a bed of crushed Doritos and add some taco-seasoned ground beef on top. Then you add whatever toppings you like. I’ve included my suggestions below, which include kidney beans, sour cream, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, Catalina dressing, and lots of cheddar cheese.

But feel free to make this fiesta taco salad recipe your own. I’ve included some ideas below, but you can easily change out the Doritos with regular tortilla chips. And have fun and play around with your favorite taco toppings on this! If you love this meal make sure you check out some of these other yummy Mexican dishes Taco Soup (The Worlds Easiest Supper)Taco Tater Tot Casserole RecipeSlow Cooker Tacos With Ground Beef, and Cream Cheese Chicken Enchiladas.

Labeled ingredients for fiesta taco salad.

Recipe Ingredients

  • Ground beef
  • Taco seasoning mix
  • Doritos
  • Dark red kidney beans
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Sour cream
  • Catalina dressing

Helpful Kitchen Tools

How to Make Fiesta Taco Salad

Brown ground beef in skillet.

Brown and drain the beef of excess fat.

Add taco seasoning mix to beef.

Then add the packet of taco seasoning (whichever one is your favorite or if you make your own). Next, add the necessary water (following the directions on the back of the package).

Browned seasoned beef in skillet.

Let the water reduce until the beef mixture is thick and the flavors meld, then turn off the heat.

Diced tomato on chopping board.

Now, let’s prep our salad toppings. 

First, dice the fresh tomato.

Freshly shredded cheddar cheese on chopping board.

Then freshly grate your cheddar cheese.

Place crushed Doritos on plate.

Assembling the Fiesta Taco Salad

Crush a handful (or more) of Doritos and place them on a plate.

Top crushed Doritos with ground beef.

Then add a layer of the taco beef mixture.

Top beef with shredded lettuce.

Then add whatever toppings you prefer.

Today I’m adding shredded lettuce…

Top lettuce with diced tomato.

Diced tomato…

Top tomato with kidney beans.

Kidney beans…

Add shredded cheese to top of salad.

Shredded cheddar cheese…

Finish fiesta taco salad with Catalina dressing and sour cream.

Sour cream and a light drizzle of Catalina dressing.

Fiesta taco salad on plate.

Some other topping ideas include seasoned rice, salsa, pinto beans, sliced green onions, diced bell peppers, diced red onion, refried beans, olives, black beans, fresh cilantro, or jalapenos.

Forkful of fiesta taco salad.

Whatever toppings you choose, I hope you enjoy your taco salad!


Store the leftover toppings separately in either the pantry or fridge and reassemble them whenever you want a taco salad. The cooked ground beef will last up to 3 days when stored in an airtight container in the fridge and up to 3 months in the freezer. You can simply reheat it in the microwave before making another taco salad.

Recipe Variations

Here are some easy ways to make this recipe work for you:

  • Substitute the Catalina dressing for Thousand Island dressing or ranch dressing if you prefer.
  • If you want to bring back the Fiesta Taco Salad from Taco Bell, substitute the crushed Doritos for an Old El Paso tortilla bowl, which you can pick up at most grocery stores. You can also make homemade baked tortilla bowls using flour tortillas.
  • Another option is to serve the taco salad with cornbread, like my Mexican cornbread or jalapeno cornbread muffins.
  • As mentioned below, you can substitute the lean ground beef for ground turkey if you prefer. For something different, use diced boneless skinless chicken breast instead.
  • Substitute the cheddar cheese for shredded sharp cheddar cheese or a Mexican cheese blend.

Recipe FAQs

What ingredients were in the Taco Bell Fiesta Taco Salad?

Discontinued in 2020, the Taco Bell Fiesta Taco Salad included a crisp taco shell filled with ground beef, refried beans, rice, lettuce, tomato, shredded cheese, and sour cream. For an additional cost, you could substitute ground beef for chicken or steak.

Can you make vegetarian fiesta taco salad?

To make vegetarian taco salad, you have a couple of options. You can either use the plant-based ground meat alternative of your choice. Or you can substitute it for grilled fajita veggies, similar to what they serve at Chipotle. 

Check out these other tasty taco-inspired dishes:

Taco Pizza Recipe

Taco Tater Tot Casserole Recipe

Sweet Potato Tacos With Black Beans

Taco Soup (The World’s Easiest Supper)

Instant Pot Beef Barbacoa Tacos

Greek Chicken Tacos

Fiesta taco salad on plate.

Fiesta Taco Salad

This fiesta taco salad is quick, easy, and packed with flavor. Load up your crushed Doritos and ground beef with your favorite taco toppings.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: salad, taco
Servings: 4
Calories: 483kcal


  • 1 lb ground beef or ground turkey
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • water whatever the back of the taco seasoning packet requires
  • 1 bag Doritos
  • 1 can dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 head shredded lettuce
  • 1 medium block shredded cheddar cheese
  • 3 diced tomatoes
  • 1 container sour cream
  • 1 bottle Catalina dressing


  • Brown and drain the beef of excess fat then add the packet of taco seasoning (whichever one is your favorite or if you make your own). Add the necessary water (following the directions on the back of the package). Let the water reduce until the beef mixture is thick and the flavors meld, then turn off the heat.
    1 lb ground beef or ground turkey, 1 packet taco seasoning, water
  • Crush a handful (or more) of Doritos and place them on a plate, then add a layer of the taco beef mixture.
    1 bag Doritos
  • Then add whatever toppings you prefer, like kidney beans, shredded lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, sour cream, and a light drizzle of Catalina dressing.
    1 can dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained, 1/2 head shredded lettuce, 1 medium block shredded cheddar cheese, 3 diced tomatoes, 1 container sour cream, 1 bottle Catalina dressing


Calories: 483kcal
Tried this recipe?Mention @southernplate or tag #southernplate!


Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.

~Zig Ziglar

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  1. I was surprised with this recipe back in 1981 at a welcoming dinner given by new friends… and the most surprising thing about the dish was 3 ingredients that they insisted we try adding: chopped pecans, shredded coconut, and black olives. These in addition to the grated cheese, onions and tomatoes, sour cream, etc.–the usual taco salad ingredients. They also poured both Taco Sauce and Catalina over as a combined dressing for the salad.

    Wonderful memory, and a great find. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Christy,

    My recipe for Taco Salad is very similar to yours, except I use double the meat (or textured vegetable protein and beef bullion for vegetarians), cook it with the onions, taco seasoning, water and the El Pato sauce. And I mix Thousand Island Dressing, instead of Catalina, and a small can of the mild chopped green chiles into the meat mixture before adding tomatoes and lettuce to it. I have green onions, black olive slices, sour cream, guacamole and Doritos or Frito Scoops on the side. Those people add to their own preference.

    I left Phoenix, AZ, with my husband who got stationed on submarines in Groton-New London, CT. While the guys were out on the boat (the USS Andrew Jackson SSBN 619, and yes. the are called boats) the wives would get together for various events. The first one I was invited to was a wive’s potluck. So, I am always thinking Mexican food, so I bring a BIG taco salad and all the side fixings. Well, these women (most from the east coast) had never heard of a taco salad, much less SEEN one. I’m at the end of the line because I got there later than the rest, but still on time, and by the time I got to the bowl of taco salad, there was hardly any of it gone and I groaned thinking I was going to be eating taco salad for the next couple of weeks. All of the wives had taken little tiny spoonfuls so they could taste it before they committed to really taking much of it because it was so different from what they expected me to be bringing, I guess. However, by the time the dinner was over, the wasn’t a speck of that salad left in that bowl! There were only about 25 wives there and we were supposed to cook accordingly and I learned to cook for a family of five with BIG appetites and to expect company and company NEVER goes away hungry, especially if they were extended family. So you know I took a BIG bowl of taco salad with me! I sure was happy that bowl was empty though! My husband would bring over all kinds of single guys all the time, sometimes as many as 15 or 20 at a time and it’s a good thing that I did cook big (even though the taco meat even with the salad dressing freezes well for future use) because those guys seldom got a real home cooked meal. And I would have to fight them off so I could actually get a bowl full myself! Taco salad along with some homemade sangria make a really delicious meal.

    I sure loved all those guys from the boat that came home with my husband. We used to have a lot of fun together. The boat came in to the base unexpectedly once, so I bought a couple of cases of beer in the brown bottles and stuck them in the freezer to get cold. And I grew up that if you didn’t help yourself, you sure didn’t want what you were asking someone else to get you very badly. One of the guys yelled at me “hey, Judi, get me a beer”. So I came out with two really cold beers and asked him sweetly “you want me to take the top off for you too?” Not knowing me all that well yet, he said yes, so I took the top off, shook the beer up good and proceeded to spray him with the now excited beer. Well that started a beer fight. Don’t know if any of you have ever had beer dry in your hair without it being rinsed out first, but when it dries, your hair gets really tangled and stiff! And I had waist length hair and since it started the beer fight, all the guys turned on me at the same time and I got drenched! Then they decide we need to go to the store for some chips, dip and more beer. The drank more beer than they got on them, me, I got drenched and I was the only one who wasn’t drinking beer, but guess who smelled like a brewery in the store! Heck, it was still fun and we were all laughing like a bunch of hyenas about it the whole time in the store and back at our apartment!


  3. Brandie, like all your great recipes this is fast and simple….My families favorite kind of weeknight meals! Thanks so much for sharing. I know that Christy is so thankful to have you help her out while she is recouping.

  4. Taco Salads are always a welcome meal time treat. Most of the time I will use the flour tortilla baked and formed over a meal pan especially for taco salads. Instead of the sour cream I like mine with chunky avocado topping with Salsa. The recipe is so easy to make as your own family likes. Thank you for filling in for Christy while she mends those broken bones and giving us some tasty recipes.

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